Eddie Howe hailed Sean Longstaff after the Newcastle United midfielder scored the goals to take the team to Wembley.
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The midfielder bagged a brace as Newcastle overcame Southampton in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.
Longstaff, who is just one of many players to have been utterly reborn under Howe’s watch, ensured there would be no heartbreaking upset on the cards as two early goals calmed the nerves. While Che Adams’ wonder strike did keep the tie alive, it was thanks to Longstaff that Saints always had a mountain to climb.
The 25-year-old’s return to form has been fantastic to watch. Compared to Michael Carrick in his early days, it would be fair to say Longstaff’s career had stalled in recent years, but Howe has seemingly taken his game to new heights.
A hugely important figure this season, an academy graduate sending Newcastle to Wembley really is what dreams are made of. Indeed, it adds a layer of authenticity to this team, particularly with Dan Burn, Elliot Anderson, Paul Dummett and Mark Gillespie also involved.
What did Howe say about Longstaff?
Speaking after the win, Howe said (via BBC Sport): “Really pleased for him it’s fitting it was a local lad and someone who loves the club. I can see that every day behind the scenes and how committed he is to the club and his craft.
“Two great goals, he has deserved that for his performances this season he has been magnificent for us. The work rate he gives the team and the unseen things I appreciate, I am glad he’ll get credit from the media tonight.”
How well did Longstaff play against Southampton?
Clearly, the goals are the most important thing in a straight knockout cup competition, particularly for a player who has missed plenty of chances of late.
Still, a look at Longstaff’s overall performance is equally as pleasing.
According to WhoScored data, the midfielder played two key passes (trailing only Kieran Trippier), had three shots on target (ranking first), made four interceptions (again, ranking first) and put his body on the line to make a block too.
An all-action presence in the middle of the park, the same will be needed on Saturday when West Ham visit St James’ Park.